Batoka comes to life — Mthuli

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A flurry of activity over the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric project is expected in the next few weeks amid indications that the updating of feasibility studies would be concluded at the end of the first quarter.

Once the feasibility studies have been updated, resource mobilisation would begin in earnest, with the construction of the $5,2 billion rated power plant set to begin immediately after that.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said this yesterday in his weekly column in The Herald.

The Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric project is a joint venture between Zimbabwe and Zambia, which seeks to develop a 2 400MW power project on the Zambezi River.

Harare and Lusaka would share the power equally on completion of the project.

Said Prof Ncube: “The Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme, a game changing project, is coming to life. The updating of feasibility studies is now expected to be complete by the end of the first quarter this year, which will pave way for real resource mobilisation.

“With investors lining up from across the globe for this exciting project; we expect significant progress in the coming weeks on the scheme.”

Electricity generation is number one priority for the new administration as it is a catalyst to re-industrialisation.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has relaxed several investment laws, such as the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment programme, which were seen as prohibiting foreign direct investment.

The Batoka Gorge project has been in the pipeline in the last seven years, and has recorded significant traction in the last year following international goodwill.

In the last 10 months alone, Presidents Mnangagwa and Edgar Lungu of Zambia, have agreed on a number of issues such as awarding the tender for the construction of Batoka Hydro to China Power and General Electric, a top United States firm.

The country’s economic blueprint, the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), prioritises investments in power generation, transmission and distribution networks.

Several other energy projects have been lined up, including the Hwange 7 and 8 expansion project, which commenced last August. The project comprises two units of 300MW each and will cost a staggering $1,5 billion. The expansion project is on schedule to be completed within 42 months.

Government is also working closely with India to catalyse the long-stalled Bulawayo Thermal Power Station project.

ZPC had secured an $87 million line of credit from Exim Bank of India back in 2015, but with additional credit now coming from the Indian government, the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) process is now underway.

The Exim Bank of India is currently prequalifying bidders, which will pave way for commencement of works.

Other energy projects include the re-powering of the Harare Thermal Power Station, the Deka Water Pumping Project, the Gwanda Solar Project, and a number of mini-hydro power plants that are springing up across the country.

Said Prof Ncube: “We are breaking through bureaucratic barriers and antiquated protocols to kick-start these multi-faceted projects, but the power sources are not enough.

“It is incumbent upon us to ensure that transmission projects keep pace with the developments. We must bring energy to every corner of our blessed land.  There is no use producing the fruits, if they don’t reach the mouths they are grown to feed.”

The Alaska-Karoi 132kV transmission line has also received the $22 million grant necessary for its 85km route completion and is expected to be fully operational next year.

Other transmission lines expected to be completed in the near future include Alaska-Karoi 132kV, Atlanta-Mutoko 132kV, Tugwi-Masvingo 132kV, the Horseshoe-Kanyemba 132kV, and of course the ZIZABONA.

The name ZIZABONA comes from the first two letters in the names neighbouring countries Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. It is a 400/ 330kV interconnector line envisaged to establish the required infrastructure to connect the four countries.

The project is expected to enable the wheeling of power north south or vice versa via the Caprivi Link.